Spotlight: Family suicides in Turkey highlight social unease, financial woes
ANKARA, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) — A string of collective family suicides in Turkey have made headlines recently, shedding spotlight on the anxiety in the country’s social fabric amid enduring economic hardships that have impacted the nation since last year.
Four siblings of a Turkish family, between the ages of 45 and 60, killed themselves in a flat in the popular Fatih district in Istanbul on Nov. 7 with cyanide. The news shocked the whole country.
The victims, two males and two females, allegedly faced severe financial difficulties, coupled with possible psychological problems, as the electricity of their home was cut off due to unpaid bills in the last two months.
Close friends of the family said that the siblings “refused to apply for state benefits because they were “too proud” to do so.
Several days after the incident, a new tragedy occurred in the southern town of Antalya, where a family of four was found dead in what appeared to be a collective suicide by cyanide poisoning, local media reported.
The father, named Selim Simsek, a computer technician, reportedly left a heartbreaking note describing the severe financial difficulties he was going through. He and his two children were found dead in the living room, holding hands together, while the mother was found dead in the bathroom, the reports said.
Simesek said in the note that he had been jobless for the past nine months and couldn’t go on. “I apologize for everyone, but there’s nothing else to do. We are ending our lives,” he wrote.
The suicides followed more than a year of economic tumult amid a slide in the Turkish lira. Many companies and individuals have struggled very hard to repay debts amid the bankruptcies of companies that left tens of thousands unemployed.
Inflation and unemployment have soared during the last year but the government insists that after a series of drastic measures, a recovery process is currently underway with better economic output for this year.
Experts have said that while poverty seemed to be prevalent cause for the two incidents, other social factors were also to blame.
“It is known that economic hardships trigger anxiety and depression, and this state of mind is generally one of despair, hopelessness and loneliness. And this state of mind, at the end, is a cause for suicide,” Ayhan Akcan, a psychiatrist in Istanbul told Xinhua.
Akcan, also a scholar from the Halic University, pointed out that, though the suicide rate in Turkey is less than that in many European countries, nevertheless there are up to 1 million people with suicidal tendencies” in the country.
Akcan warned that people with such tendencies could commit collective suicides using the very same method, cyanide poisoning.
“Besides poverty, there are social factors to be taken into account in these incidents, and the authorities should make cyanide less reachable for people with mental health issues who might emulate collective suicides,” he said, fearing that more such incidents could happen.
In the latest development, a security guard working for the Cankaya district in the capital Ankara municipality took his own life by hanging due to the growing burden of debts.
“We think that financial reasons are behind this death,” an official told Xinhua.
In Turkey, the official unemployment rate stands at 13.9 percent, with roughly 4.6 million jobless people in the nation where the monthly minimum wage is around 2,000 liras (346 U.S. dollars).
Yet the poverty threshold for a four-person household stands at 6,705 liras per month, according to a survey by the Confederation of Turkish Trade Union.